A couple days before Christmas, my girlfriend and I had to leave the house and move out of Bristol back to the Netherlands within 3 days. I wrote a little informal story about it at the time; very informally written but still an interesting read!
345km of pavement and 5km of muddy road, roughly..
Just like that one famous movie this story starts at part IV. The only important things to remember from the first parts is that an evil landlord terminated the contract on a 3 days notice, leaving Annet and I to plan a move…
Our hearts sank lower than the Titanic when he decided to kick us out of the house with no apparent reasons, couple days before Christmas travels. That left us with moving out in three days, one of these days already lost by a conference of religious know-hows and me talking about justpeople.
Sunday night and we are checking the prices to ship a lot of crap to the Netherlands, a grand approximate of 500 pounds to ship two bikes, clothes, two mugs from Denmark, 3 toothbrushes and a plate with a cat looking bedazzled at a cactus. Well in true Christmas spirit I said fuck DHL, I’m gonna cycle to the Netherlands in two days and take as much crap with me as possible.
Monday passed after I learned how to retire as a pope and stuffed myself with a haute cuisine 3 course dinner paid by one of the Universities in the South West of the U.K. you know, in a restaurant where the waiters speak either French or Italian, a bit of English, where 4 mushrooms cost 13 pounds and the toilets are called lavatories. You know what I mean.
Tuesday came and the DHL van didn’t. Angel from heaven and/or Bristol called Emily offered to drive our crap, plates and Annet’s bike from Bristol to Nijmegen, stopping for new years and for a yet to be baked massive cake. Meanwhile I packed my panniers with crap that Emily couldn’t take with her, carbed up and set an alarm around the time that most bars ring their bell for the last round.
As my alarm rang way too early so I could cycle 200km that day, I turned around and realized that chapter Bristol ends now. I made a little too loud coffee and oatmeal as breakfast (the landlord sleeps next to the kitchen) and hit the road in pitch Americano without milk. Before the country inhabitants decided if they wanted tea or coffee in their morning routine, I raced graciously at a reasonable pace like a cheetah not on a mission through the countryside onward. To entertain myself I was counting the night animals; two foxes, 3 heavy drunk students and 6 bats. A sizable amount if I may say so myself. I grew tired of that game when I was treated on a splendid mediocre sunrise, one with the color of a couple deep frozen raspberries and a squished strawberry that one finds usually on the bottom of a 500 gram box, a couple Instagram filters might have made it photgraphable but I was lazy.
Luckily I could entertain myself with looking at grumpy commuters faces stuck in Traffic while I squeezed through them, they all looked the same. Oh well, somebody must do their jobs right? I kept cruising and reached the rather back roads, the one you encounter when thinking you could cut a bit of the journey by not following the a-roads or a-team.
Natasja (or the google maps voice) barked and broke the silence by commanding me to take a right, and I listened… Wait this isn’t pavement! ¿This is a dirt road?? There was no immediate alternative so I pushed on, quite literally. The road was a mudmasters track and as a novice trail runner I was amazed by the mud. Would have been really nice to ride with a quad bike or a mountain bike but I had a touring bike filled with crap.
Just 5km of pushing through the mud. Maybe good for my skin in an overpriced spa, but certainly not good for basically every moving part of my bike. Stopping every 100 meters to clear out all the mud stuck in my mudguards and drive train, I encountered more mud than browsing a couple odd moments on an alt-right website. Those mudguards guarded the mud a bit too much…
Looking like a savage all covered in mud, I walked to a farm and asked I could maybe hose my bike and clean it a bitsy bit. The owner looked shocked and in typical British fashion she made a cuppa to deal with the shock. My bike looked acceptable again and I went on, still just 160 km to cover. A sane person would around this time just cleaned his/her dishes from breakfast, I cleaned my disc brakes.
Well, I continued and found myself near a traffic jammed motorway. I was listening to music and was jamming myself pretty hard too; treating the cars and scared an oddly timed mating dove couple to some foo fighters air-drumming.
This game quickly (approximately 146 minutes) turned boring so I went on playing the game that every 5 year old and 20 year old does at the highway: trying to get lorries to honk. When a massive truck honked at me, I probably laughed harder than a psychiatrist would have liked.
Introducing a side character: karma. After the mud wrestle I lost a lot of oil on my chain, half of a Bristolian refugees welcome sticker (if found please call me), karma decided that a puncture would be much appreciated. He judged wrongly. Apparently still some bits of rear window car glass (see part 2) where stuck in my tire, causing me to walk for 3 miles to a bike shop for a new inner tube.
Oh right, it’s the shortest day of the year, sun sets at 16:00 and I had about 80 km to cover in the dark on extremely busy roads filled with car commuters without a proper cycling lane. If my mom would find out how close the cars raced by, I would be grounded…
Side story: apparently light posts in the UK have priority over cyclists. See one of the pictures. I know scientists discovering the meaning of everything and the universe are cool with their term ‘spagettification’ but I’d like to use that scientific term as well: describing the cycle lanes in England. Just randomly throwing spaghetti on a map and where it lands, the municipality constructs a cycling lane. Don’t believe my? Try cycling in the UK just on cycling lanes, you’d soon find out…
Somehow I arrived at a town named after a bloake who died in 209 AD by religious fundamentalists after being tortured and beheaded. The town is commonly referred as st. Albans. Here I was welcomed by a lovely couple and a rather obnoxious rabbit pretending a dog (or was it just a small dog?). Time for some proper rest after 200km of cycling.
The next morning I didn’t rise and shine, I did take a shower but I kind of fell out of bed, tired legs caused that. The morning I stuffed myself with humus and bread while listening to how lovely the dog was (opinions vary) and left sharply at 9:16. There was a beautiful mist, if I was getting paid to do this story telling, I would definitely made a picture. But as far as I am aware I’m not, so no picture of beautiful mist on country side roads.
The mist cleared, the Traffic didn’t, the grayness of British towns neither so I decided to take some back roads. It was a war zone. No seriously, guns were fired more than at a NRA convention and there were more Landrovers than during colonial times (In Dutch this joke works better, rover means robbing).
Apparently it was hunting season for middle aged rich British men. They were not hunting for women so that they don’t end up lonely when old (they will), they were hunting on ducks and geese. And I cycled through the killing fields. Luckily I didn’t look like a duck and wasn’t shot.
The mud road did more damage than only making my socks with hearts dirty and ruined my brakes a bit more. Contrary to popular belief, cycling on busy roads with cars racing past, sore ass, tired legs, under time pressure to catch a ferry, disc brakes creating friction slowing you down and making the ride constantly a bit uphill isn’t that fun. The disc brakes are not fixable on the road and my mood neither so I called it a day after cover 110 km with malfunctioning brakes and went to the train station to take the train the last 40 km to the ferry.
Now I am killing time in a pub that certainly isn’t in the lonely planet and the drunken frequently visitor thought I was a girl and starting flirting with me. You had to see his face when he realized that the long hair belonged to a guy. It makes this story at least a bit more interesting…
Well I’m now on the ferry, extremely enjoying my glorious meal of bread hummus, peppers and broccoli while another peculiar journey has come to an end.
If you have made it this far, send me a message on Facebook and I’ll give you a big hug when I see you again.
I live happily ever after, the drunken guy probably too and my chain unfortunately doesn’t because it needs replacement in the Netherlands. Killed by the evil mud road. Poor it…
~Jesse van Hulst 22 December 2017